IBM Bans Staff From Using USB Sticks At Work

by: The Knowledge Group

May 15, 2018


IBM staff are no longer allowed to use USB sticks while at work. The decision was made in an effort to improve company-wide cybersecurity. Removable memory devices like flash drives, SD cards and USB sticks are no longer allowed on-site. Though this might seem draconian in nature, the decision makes sense as IBM would suffer considerable damage if staff misused or lost such devices. Imagine a scenario in which a careless employee leaves a USB stick with company trade secrets behind at an industry conference or elsewhere. The fallout of such a mistake could be brutal for IBM.  Clients might flee to competitors and IBM would undoubtedly suffer the financial consequences.

How IBM Staff Will Transmit Data Without USB Sticks

The ban on removable storage comes in wake of select IBM departments being barred from the use of removable portable media. IBM personnel looking to move data will have to do so through an internal network. IBM’s global chief security officer, Shamla Naidoo, broke the news to the dismay of just about everyone who works at the tech giant. The ban applies to IBM employees across the world. It is expected IBM workers will segue from removable portable media to a reliance on the internal network by the start of June.

Some Question Whether the ban is Sensible

An IBM spokeswoman referenced the “increasing complexity” of cyber security threats when pressed for an explanation of the decision. It is undoubtedly a bold move by IBM as USB devices are seemingly ubiquitous. It does not take a computer genius to extract data from such devices and transmit nasty software yet industry experts question how easy it will be for IBM to implement the plan. It is fairly easy to control access to removable portable media like USB memory sticks yet staff often require such devices for business purposes.

Those who understand the nuances of portable data storage devices argue IBM’s new policy will not prevent data theft. As an example, an employee could easily lose a laptop containing highly sensitive information. Time will tell if the tech giant’s decision to ban USB sticks will prove meritorious. It is certainly possible the ban on portable media frustrates employees to the point that they seek employment opportunities with IBM competitors.

Be sure to join us for an upcoming webcast discussing best practices for Identifying and Protecting sensitive data, with a speaker from IBM on June 5th.  The webcast is eligible for Continuing Legal Education credit and more information can be found here.